Explained | Trump’s Israel-Palestine peace plan

U.S. President Donald Trump looks over at Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a joint news conference to announce a new Middle East peace plan proposal in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., January 28, 2020.   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

The West Asia peace plan unveiled by U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday seeks to give the Israelis what they have long wanted — an expansive state with Jerusalem as its “undivided capital” and tight security control over a future Palestinian state. With his plan, Mr. Trump is actually pushing to revive the stalled two-state talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians, but on his own terms. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had earlier spoken against the two-state solution, has accepted the Trump plan, while appearing beside the President in the White House. The Palestinians were absent.

What’s the plan?

The Trump plan seeks to address most of the contentious issues in the conflict such as the border of Israel, status of Palestinian refugees, Jewish settlements on the West Bank, land swap between Israel and Palestine, Israel’s security concerns and the status of the city of Jerusalem. However, the solutions Mr. Trump has proposed to almost all of these issues favour the Israeli positions. For example, Israel would be allowed to annex the Jewish settlements on the West Bank as well as the Jordan Valley. The Palestinian refugees, who were forced out from their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that followed the declaration of the state of Israel in the historic Palestine, would not be allowed to return. They could move to the future Palestinian state, be integrated into the host countries or settled in other regional countries.

Jerusalem, perhaps the most contentious issue, would be “the undivided capital” of Israel, with Palestine gaining its capital in the east of the city — beyond the security border Israel has already built. In return, Israel would freeze further settlement activities on the West Bank for four years — the time for negotiations. During this period, the Palestinian Authority should dismiss its current complaints at the International Criminal Court against Israel and refrain itself from taking further actions. It should also crack down on “terrorist” groups such as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. Mr. Trump has also proposed $50 billion in investment over 10 years should Palestine accept the proposals. In the final settlement, Palestine would get control over more land than what it currently controls (According to the Oslo Accords, the West Bank was divided into three areas and only one of them is under the direct control of the Palestinian Authority). The plan proposes some land swap for the Israeli annexation of the West Bank Jewish settlements. It seeks to enlarge Gaza and connect the strip with the West Bank through a tunnel. The Arab towns in the southeast of Israel, which are close to Gaza, could become part of a future Palestinian state.

Will it work?

The Palestine position, which is backed by most of the world powers, is the formation of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state based on the 1967 border (meaning the whole of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) with East Jerusalem as its capital (including the Old City that houses Haram esh-Sharif, also known as Temple Mount, a holy site for both Muslims and Jews). Issues like the right of return of the Palestinian refugees are to be settled in final negotiations. But Mr. Trump has effectively rejected the Palestinian claims outright and asked them to make more compromises. He seeks to give Jerusalem and about 30% of the West Bank to the Israelis and has denied the right of return of the Palestinian refugees — all for truncated sovereignty for the Palestinians in a state that would practically be surrounded by Israel. And for this, the Palestinians should take action against militant groups, stop supporting Palestinian families of those jailed or killed by Israel and refrain itself from questioning the occupation in international fora.

The Fatah party of President Mahmoud Abbas runs the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank, while Hamas is running Gaza. While there’s a bitter feud between these two, both sides, as well as the Islamic Jihad, have come together in rejecting the Trump plan. It would be difficult for any Palestinian leader to sell Mr. Trump’s proposals to a people who are living under occupation for decades. Unsurprisingly, they had rejected the proposal even before Mr. Trump unveiled it. The Palestinians say the Trump administration, which recognised the disputed Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and supported the annexation of the settlements on the West Bank, cannot be an impartial mediator for peace. The Trump plan seems to be underscoring this argument.

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Printable version | May 16, 2021 12:27:58 PM |

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